LOS ANGELES (CN) – Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk wants to help Los Angeles motorists stuck in traffic not by launching them into the sky, but by putting them underground.
On Wednesday, an underground test tunnel project received an environmental exemption from a Los Angeles public works committee.
Musk, founder of Tesla and SpaceX, wants to build a network of underground tunnels for cars and pedestrians that will act as a subterranean alternative to freeways and surface streets and would connect downtown Los Angeles to other parts of the city, like Long Beach and Inglewood.
But before that grand vision gets underway, Musk’s Boring Company – the same company that sold consumer flamethrowers earlier this year – wants to test out its ambitious underground idea with a test tunnel.
The Los Angeles City Council’s Public Works committee found that the proof-of-concept project, a 2.7-mile pilot tunnel, was categorically exempt from California Environmental Quality Act standards and city officials asked the Bureau of Engineering to prepare excavation permits for the project. The proposal awaits final approval from the city council.
At the committee meeting, city officials stressed that the project is not a precursor to a larger project, at least not yet. They also stressed that the test tunnel project is not a public transit operation, which is why the committee is able to approve the CEQA exemption. The general public will not be allowed to wander around in the Boring tunnel.
The tunnel is instead seen as an experiment, or “a toe in the water,” as one city official described it.
If the project gets city council approval, contractors will remove 80,000 cubic yards of soil over a nine-month period from the site under the intersection of Sepulveda and Washington Boulevards in Culver City, about 10 miles from downtown Los Angeles.
The tunnel will have only one entry point, according to project descriptions.
One councilman said the amount of studies presented by city engineers made the decision to approve the CEQA exemption a “no brainer.”
“Let’s not overcomplicate this,” City Councilman Joe Buscaino said. “Let’s start digging. Let’s beat the east coast.”
At Wednesday’s meeting, Los Angeles resident Robert Rieth called the city’s CEQA exemption a subsidy for the Boring Company.
“Giving them a head start sets the stage that the private market is more effective than the government sector,” Rieth said.
A spokesperson for the Boring Company was present at the meeting, but did not take any questions from the press.
Described as a zero-emissions, high-speed network, the Boring Company project is similar to another test tunnel built in Hawthorne, also in Los Angeles County.
Musk’s company may also pursue transit projects in other parts of the country. In February, it announced its interest in submitting a bid to build a private express train from O’Hare International Airport to downtown Chicago.
The Boring Company tunnel project is not the only part of Los Angeles with Musk’s signature over it. His private aerospace company, SpaceX, will start production on its Big Falcon Rocket, or BFR, at the Port of Los Angeles later this year.
The BFR is part of a plan to colonize Mars and send people to the Red Planet by 2024.
The new rocket site is expected to be 18 acres, according to a report from the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners. After an initial 10-year lease, the company will have the option to stick around the Port of Los Angeles and renew its stay for the next 20 years.